Routine vs Freedom

To be…in a routine, or not to be…in a routine?!

I have a love-hate relationship with routine.  I need one or my life feels like chaos and I very quickly feel stressed and a sense of failure, but with one I feel trapped and the rebel in me screams ‘nothing is going to tell me what to do!’

So how have I struck a balance?  How have I got to the point where I have both freedom and organisation?

Well I know phones and technology are all the main thing now with storing diaries and calendars and notes and life plans etc. but I have to admit I absolutely love my Filofax.  And it’s not a dinky little thing that fits nicely into my handbag either, but a massive one that has scribbles and boxes and A4 sheets for this, that and everything else all over it.  (By the way I also have a family planner wall calendar, a  weekly meal planner, my phone too – I’m not that much of a dinosaur- and then bits of paper all over the place; clearly I intend to be organised…I just don’t use them all! My filofax however is amazing!)

So I sat down one day not too long ago and I asked myself what I wanted.  I dreamed big and I decided I wanted my business to grow to at least twice it’s size by Easter next year, and with that had to come a huge level of planning and organisation.  I also decided I wanted quality time with my children and that means that when they get home from school I wanted to be able to focus on them.  That in turn means I had to get the majority of my work done in the day time when they weren’t around.  But I also wanted a clean house and time for my friends and a little time for fitness too (gosh I want it all don’t I!)

That’s when the coloured pens came out.  It was time to start looking at what things I had in my social life and children’s lives that were already built in and get them in the diary first (after all what’s the point of working for yourself if you can’t prioritise what you want to prioritise?) Then I made sure I’d blocked out the weekends – to be fair I’ve not worked weekends (aside from the odd fixed charity event or stall I’ve carefully selected) for over a year and a half now at the request of my children and I was very happy to oblige.  I then ensured I always had a day off a week where I could clean the house and see friends.

So with those things in the diary, next I took a bright red pen and put a big line around 9.00-3.00 on four week days. On some evenings where I didn’t have pampers booked in I also put a line around as evenings if I wanted to do a bit of customer service work on those days (it’s my choice after all).

So what did I have now? Quite simply I had a routine.  I had a plan which I dictated as to when I was working and when I wasn’t.  I had a time to clean my home and see friends.  I had time for my children and space to go to the things important to them and to me.

Next I sat and I wrote my business plan so I could fill my working week with a variety of jobs, networking events, sales opportunities, customer calls etc. (I’ll maybe cover that one in a future blog).  But the key word there is variety.  I do get easily bored.  I need variety in my day and my week.  So having a routine that fits my life, but is clear on where I’m focussing and allows me the freedom to do all the things I want to do in  varied and fun way means I’m not fighting against anything, I’m not stressed and chaotic but I have balance, focus and confidence that I am in control of achieving that dream I have dreamed.

It sounds really simple doesn’t it?  To be fair…it is! And it’s what loads of people already do.  Maybe I’ve come to the self-employed organisational party a little late! But I do think that there are probably a few of you out there who also feel like I used to feel and maybe a little overwhelmed with all the plates to spin and balls to juggle and all that (life basically!)  And so maybe, this will offer you a little perspective and encouragement to sit down and make your own plan that works for you.  A warning though…once you’ve created your balanced happy life routine you do need to stick to it and not rebel too much against it.  Otherwise what’s the point?  That’s maybe the tough part – it used to be for me but the penny has dropped!  If your routine says that on a Tuesday at 10am you’re making a phone call to x, y and z but you see the dishwasher needs emptying, you need to make those calls and ignore the dishwasher.  You may have to go out of the house if that distraction is just too much…or get up a bit earlier to do the dishwasher before your routine starts (after all if you were going to an office to work for someone else you’d have to leave it then or do it before you went wouldn’t you?!)  It’s crucial you stick to it.  If you find yourself drifting then do 2 things: 1 revisit your dream and the timescale for it and ask ‘is this what I really want?’ and 2 have a look at what in your routine isn’t working for you…then make some changes.

There’s a little motto floating around in Tropic-land: “WAKE UP WITH DETERMINATION, GO TO BED WITH SATISFACTION”  I like that!  Hope it inspires and encourages you too.